FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: June 2013


Friday, 21 June 2013

7 reasons why the gym sucks

It took a long time for me to love exercise. I held on pretty hard to the fags, beer and junk food whilst flirting ferociously with various half-used gym memberships. Can you believe I used to have a cigarette on the way to the gym?!

I'd then do about 20-30 minutes steady jogging on the treadmill and walk out satisfied, bacci in hand, rolling another one for the journey home, convinced that by the morning I'd be a dress size smaller.

Well done Tess, you've earned that fag. Now go home and have your pizza and chips.

Looking back it wasn't only the fags, beer and crap nutrition that was my problem, it was also the gym. And not any gym in particular, (believe me I've been to a fair few) but just 'the gym' in general.

It's just not for me. (edit - it now totally is for me...)

Here are 7 reasons why I hate the gym

1) *YAWN*

Let's think rationally about this. You go for a run on the treadmill. You've got a choice of about four things to look at:

    • Calorie counter/timer
    • The person next to you's calorie counter/timer (slyly, of course, always move the eyes rather than turning the head to see their calorie count without them noticing)
    • Nicki Minaj or One Direction or whatever tosh happens to be on MTV at the time. If you're lucky you'll get Daybreak. 
    • The wall/window.

It takes a heck of a long time to work off a KitKat, let me tell you. Watching the calories edge up to that magic number does not make it go faster and is not a fun process.

Get outside and take a look around. It's much more interesting.

2) Smelly/hot/sweaty machines 

I know that you're not gonna smell of roses when you're working hard. Unless you're one of those bimbos who reads Heat magazine or enjoys a leisurely chat on the phone whilst 'working out' on the exercise bike - in which case, you smell lovely, you look beautiful, please leave immediately. We don't want your kind here.

No, I know gyms smell. That doesn't make it OK though. The ones I went to always had limited/no air conditioning too so it was always disgustingly hot and smelly, and no one ever used to wipe the machines after use. Yum. 

3) You're not going anywhere 

Running on a glorified conveyer belt, cycling on a stationary bike, climbing on the stairs machine - you don't go anywhere, there's nothing to look at (see point one), and there's usually a queue of impatient people tutting behind you for their turn. 

I'd much rather go outside and actually run somewhere. Or ride my bike somewhere. There's more to look at, it's free, and the only people tutting at me are the numpties I aggressively dodge as they meander down the cycle lane on the seafront. 

4) Never any space on classes

I can only speak for myself on this one, but of the many gyms I've been a member of, I've probably only got onto about four or five classes. People seem to book seven years in advance, making it impossible to get a place unless you set up camp in the studio and emerge from under the table when the class starts. 

5) No motivation/team spirit

Unless you pay for a personal trainer to come and bark at you throughout your workout, you're pretty much on your own in the gym. I work a lot better when there's someone telling me what to do (mainly because I don't *know* what to do), and I love going to bootcamp. You make great friends, everyone's in it together, soldiering on through the pain.

There's a 40-strong collective groan at the mention of burpees or squat jumps. You can't do that in the gym on your own, if you go from machine to machine groaning to yourself people might think there's something wrong with you. Unless you're in Grunters Corner, of course, in which case groaning is allowed. (See next point).

team bfit 

6) Grunters 

Over in the free weights area, usually a cornered, mirrored habitat with good lighting and a mist of BO, you'll find two curious species.

The first, and most obvious: the Grunters. Often found in packs, these self-absorbed gorillas will lift ridiculously heavy weights and need to let *everyone* know about it. They do so by grunting loudly to the room with every rep. Rumour has it that if you go over and congratulate them they beat their  chests to choruses of 'ooh ooh ooh'.

*N.B - I don't mean to offend any serious people who train hard and lift well, only the arrogant and rude ones who make others feel unwelcome in the weights area. 

7) The Selfie 

Usually found in the same corner of the room, lives another curious creature - the Selfie. They spend just as much time as the grunters do grunting, standing in front of the mirror taking photos of themselves to share on social media. 

Popular poses include the casual-but-flexed man-pout, the tensed full-body shot, or the unashamed bicep flex (although this one is usually performed in the changing rooms out of sight of other Selfies). 

Don't get me wrong, I love social media, I love seeing photos of myself and how my body's changed since starting to exercise regularly, but there's a time and a place ladies and gents - Grunter's Corner is not it. 

And there you have it. Seven perfectly good reasons why the gym sucks and group fitness/ bootcamp rules. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Bring Sally Up, Bring Sally Down then DIE - Day 18 of Juneathon

The Internet is a wonderful thing. Making its way round YouTube at the moment is a push up challenge that's not for the feint hearted. And we all know I love a good challenge.

Tonight was the second time I've done it, and failed miserably.

I'm blaming the fail on the fact that it was near the end of an excruciatingly hot and sweaty boxercise session, and all my energy had melted into a puddle next to me after the last exercise. Nothing to do with my feeble upper body strength. No Siree, not at all.

For those of you not familiar, here are the ingredients used tonight to make this wonderful concoction of evil:
  • One play of Moby's song, Flower. 
  • 40 or so already knackered bootcampers. 
  • One crazy instructor who likes to show off his bronzed legs.
  • Pain. Lots of it. 
  • Multiple pain-ridden roars/growls/grimaces from said knackered bootcampers. 

It's simple. Start in the press up position. When the song says 'bring Sally up', you come up. When the song says 'bring Sally down', you go down, and you don't come up until it says 'bring Sally up' again, then down, then up, etc. etc. in time with the music, until the end. 

Nice and easy, right? 

NO. It's hard. It hurts. It's EVIL. 

But it's good. I can't do it all the way through yet. And I say 'yet' with purpose. I started off with full press ups before moving on to my knees and then chickening out and doing squats for about 20seconds and getting back down to it. Something to aim for though, a challenge to rise to and all that.

You can do it as press ups or as squats or crunches. I can do it nearly all the way through with crunches but definitely not press ups, even on the knees.

Just try it. It's mental.

Have you tried it? Let me know how you do!


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Sunday, 16 June 2013

A Father's Day fail & a cocktail of Tribesports challenges - Day 16 of #Juneathon

While basking in the glory of yesterday's minute+ Parkrun PB I forgot to get organised and get the old man a Father's Day card. I woke up with achey legs and a guilty conscience - and three things on my To Do list for the day:

  1. Get Dad and Grandad a card on the way over for Sunday lunch with them. 
  2. Eat said Sunday lunch. 
  3. Do some exercise of some sort to work Sunday lunch off - exactly what exercise was to be figured out after the above had taken place. 
I managed number two quite easily, unsurprisingly enough. Number one however was a massive fail when I skipped into Tesco just after midday to be confronted with this:

Fathers Day cards

It's a good job they stock some pretty generic birthday cards - a little scrubbing out and correcting later and voila! Two Father's Day cards were presented to the oldies. Job done. 

A cocktail of Tribesports challenges

Anyway, the roast was uh-mazing (lamb - my favourite), and pudding delightful (plumb crumble - nomnomnom), so I of course had to go hard on the workout to compensate. Tonight's activity of choice: a cocktail of Tribesports challenges - The Power Legs Workout, Core Workout, and of course Day 14 of the #30DaySquatChallenge.   

The Power Legs Workout caught my eye as anyone who takes the challenge goes into a draw to win a bunch of prizes, and being the competition whore that I am, I couldn't resist having a go. I got all cocky though and thought I'd be able to do the advanced sets, as we do a lot of this stuff at bootcamp every week. (3x continuous sets of 20 burpees after a round of 3x 10 jumping lunges should be nice and easy, right?) 


Tribesports power legs workout

There's a reason they incentivised this one with prizes - it hurts! I managed the advanced sets for all of the exercises apart from the burpees - I just couldn't do 3x 20 after the jumping lunges, so I knocked those down to intermediate and just did 2x 15 and went back up to advanced for the rest of the exercise. 

Followed that with the Core Workout - another killer! I really need to work on my crunches because I keep pulling from my neck and that's not good. If anyone's got some tips on how to not pull your neck when crunching please do share! 

Tribesports Core challenge exercises

Squeezed in Day 14's squats from the #30DaySquatChallenge and there you have it. Day 16 of Juneathon complete. 

Tomorrow is the start of a new timetable at bootcamp, so will be mixing it up a bit :) 

Here's my profile on Tribesports - come and say hello :) 

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Saturday, 15 June 2013

Undoing a lie with a Parkrun PB: Day 15 of Juneathon

You know when I said I wouldn't let that cold get me? When I said I had too much to be getting on with to succumb to it and would make all my sessions this week regardless of whether I could breathe or not?

Yeah, well, I lied.

But after a couple of days feeling sorry for myself and sneezing myself into oblivion I'm back with a vengeance and a shiny new Parkrun PB under my belt. I said to myself last night that I would run hard today to make up for a poor week, although I didn't think I'd get such a good PB so am mega chuffed :)

So that's one of my initial goals set out on Day 2 of Juneathon completed - to get a sub-28 minute Parkrun time. I thought it was a bit more out of reach than it actually was, so now I'm a bit worried about having to maintain that pace or beat it next time.

Another of my goals set out on Day 2 was to get to and maintain a 9:30min/mi pace for the 10k to come in just under an hour. Today I ran at an average pace of 8:53min/mi, which is really fast for my stumpy lil legs. If I can maintain around that pace for double the time I could bag myself a lovely 10k race time, and build on that for the half in February. I might be getting a bit too obsessed with numbers here, but it's exciting to see myself getting better, and makes the hard work and disappointing bad runs worth while.

My mission at the moment is to get faster and stronger and I think I'm just about on my way :)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Cranking up the power songs for Day 11 of #Juneathon

A combination of a busy week and the daily emotional rollercoaster I seem to be on following the demise of my poor Dobby last Monday seems to have finally caught up with me over the last couple of days, and I'm feeling a bit rough.

The beginnings of a cold are creeping up on me but I've got too much to be getting on with to succumb to it, so I'm still going to all of my planned sessions this week regardless of whether I can breathe or not. All medals gratefully received, thank you.

Crank up the power song

Day 11's escapades: Boxercise. I haven't been for over a week as been doing other sessions/running but it was great to get back into it. One thing I love about boxercise (or boxeo as it's now called), is the music. All of the bootcamp sessions I do are really hard work but the indoor ones have the added benefit of music and when you get that right it's suddenly not so hard any more.

Case in point: tonight's warm up. A wicked progressive house mix of Fatboy Slim's Right Here Right Now - the perfect antidote to a bunged up nose and heavy head. Six minutes of jumping, punching, twisting and skipping to the beat and my lack of energy and sore throat are successfully kicked up the arse for the next hour.

Just take a listen to this badboy and tell me you're not up for jumping around like a maniac!

Top 5 power songs:

When in need of a boost, I have a few trusty power songs up my sleeve to keep me going (Yes, I am a bit of a Pendulum whore, and no, I'm not ashamed).

         1) Pendulum - Watercolour
    2) Pendulum/FreeStylers - Painkiller
    3) Marc Simz - Forbidden City

         4) Chase and Status - Pieces


         5) Tiesto - Just Be


I've got hundreds more but these are my go to songs, especially when running. If anyone's got some other great tracks feel free to share as I'm always on the lookout for some belters!

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Monday, 10 June 2013

Day 10 of #Juneathon - swapping bootcamp for space hoppers

Despite successfully making it to adulthood there are a number of things that I missed out on as a child. Some apparently great things from other people's childhoods never made it into mine - those coming-of-age/rites-of-passage things that prompt involuntary barks of "What?! You've never seen that?" "You haven't done this?!" when you let it slip that you haven't.

Things like:

  1. Watching the original Star Wars films. 
  2. Seeing The Labyrinth.
  3. Having a Sega Mega Drive (I had a Master System so was obviously way cooler).

My childhood was instead filled with little nuggets of joy like these:

  1. Trolls. I had LOTS of them. 
  2. The Never Ending Story.
  3. The world's largest collection of Kinder Egg Tiny Terrapins (I didn't get my 'Oompa Loompa' nickname for eating lots of carrot sticks, I can assure you). 

Swapping bootcamp for space hoppers

You're probably wondering what this has to do with Juneathon, so I'll stop reminiscing. Tonight's exercise, boys and girls, was a space hopper race. Sod running, ditch bootcamp, who needs cycling? NO ONE. Not when there's a few spare space hoppers laying about in the park they don't.

I had to miss the bootcamp session I was booked onto as I had to stay late at work so was wondering how I was gonna get tonight's exercise in. I just so happened to be passing the park at the end of the session and stopped by to cycle back with the boy. When offered a go, I couldn't refuse. It's actually a lot harder work than I thought, so that's why I'm claiming it as my Juneathon day 10 activity. 

I failed pretty monumentally though, and came last, but meh. LOOK AT THE JOY!! 

Now if anyone tells me they haven't seen the Never Ending Story I'm coming round with a life size model of Falcour... 
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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Days 6, 7, 8 & 9 of #Juneathon - not slacking I promise!!

OK so I might've slacked off a bit with the blogging side of things over the last few days, but I've not been slacking on the exercise, I promise! It's been a busy week and I'm really missing my lil pud so not liking spending too much time at home at the mo. Being busy helps.

To catch up with the week's Juneathon shenanigans then, here's a round up of what's been keeping my mind off stuff:

Day six - bootcamp & laser quest

Double whammy today - Early morning bootcamp in Preston Park which set me right for the day. It was a really hard session, just how I like it. Today was also the boy's birthday - he's now officially joined me in my late 20's. (Or can we get away with calling 27 'mid-late 20's?')

After work he joined me and my workmates at our laser quest children's party - yes I said 'children's party'. Think three games of laser quest with pizza, unlimited squash and party bags thrown in! :D We've done this before as a work social, and it's always really good fun. Not to mention great exercise - lots of running around and forced squatting/crawling etc. whilst shooting the hell out of everyone.

I came 5th and then 7th out of 12 in the first two games (a LOT better than the last time I played when I came last), and then 10th out of 20 in the final one, so not too shabby.

Laser Quest Brighton

Day seven - bootcamp

Early morning bootcamp again for Friday - this time down on Hove Lawns by the seafront. I love doing bootcamp outside, especially in the morning when the sun is out and it's all nice and fresh. Really sets me up for the day, and sort of justifies sitting on my arse at work for eight hours.

Day eight - PAINTBALLING!! 

Having warmed up with laser quest on Thursday, part two of the boy's birthday involved three hours of military combat in the woods with approximately 1,000,000 blokes and about four girls (me included). I've never done paintballing before, (my only knowledge of it was mostly taken from Spaced), and I was pretty scared when we got there and the high male:female ratio became clear. 

Paintballing Kent Sussex

Paintballing Kent Sussex
Still alive at the end 
People had told me that it hurts - something that the various perfectly circular bruises dotted around my body illustrate only too well. Our group was split up as there were two massive groups against each other. We played four games with different strategies - taking flags etc. from the opposition's base and stuff like that. It was loads of fun, but very different (and more painful) than laser quest (obviously). 

Still, lots of running/crawling around through the woods, and a great way to get some exercise in for Day Eight of Juneathon. 

Day nine - a confession

Now I'm not a cheater or a skiver in any way shape or form, but I have to confess the most exercise I've done today is walking to the pub for a late breakfast before getting the train/driving back to Brighton from London. 

So, as a token exercise, I've done today's and yesterday's squats from the Tribe Sports #30DaySquatChallenge (that's 155 in total - ouch!!) 

Will get back on it properly tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Day Five of #Juneathon - Jane Fonda leg-attack and yoga

Tonight's escapades involved lots of pain and concentration, followed by an hour of deep stretching and relaxation. After yesterday's day from hell  I woke up shattered and emotionally drained but looked forward to this evening as I knew I would feel better after some exercise.

First up: C.L.ASS (which stands for Core, Legs and Ass - a much better way of saying legs, bums and tums). I haven't done this class for a while - I normally alternate between this one and HIIT as they're both on at the same time but for one reason or another I've been doing HIIT more.

It was haaarrrddd work. Think Jane Fonda, minus the leotards and leg warmers, and definitely minus the smiley-happy-gleeful expressions. These were instead replaced with pain-ridden grimaces and various roars of discontent (mainly from me).

There were lots of other exercises (obliques, crunches, bridges, planks), but it was the legs that killed me tonight. Round-the-clock lunges (where you lunge forwards, diagonal, side, diagonal and back etc. around in a clockwise circle), Jane Fonda side leg lifts, scissor legs and swimming legs, the list goes on.

We did a whole four minutes of continual squats, hover squats and pulses (ouch!) and what seemed like an eternity of glute kick backs to the sound of Salt 'n' Pepa's Push it Real Good.

Push it good we did.

C.L.ASS was followed by a lovely Yoga session, so I cycled home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, safe in the knowledge that tomorrow  I will under no circumstances be tackling the stairs at work.

Someone else can make and deliver my tea.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

When running eases the pain - Day Four of #Juneathon

Sometimes running is like therapy. It makes everything better, if only for a moment.

I'm not really in the mood to write this post - I've had the most horrendous day in the world ever. It started with a phone call at 1:30am this morning from the emergency veterinary hospital to tell me that my cat had been hit by a car and was in a bad way. Obviously I got straight in the car and drove over to see her - it wasn't a pretty sight - my poor baby was broken.

The vet told me she might lose an eye and that there may be some other injuries but they wouldn't know until the morning so sent me on my way and told me if I hadn't heard anything by 7:30am to call them. When I saw I had a message from them at 7:05 my heart sank.

I had to go and say my goodbyes.

You know that uncontrollable, snivelling sobbing you used to do as a child? That's what I've been doing all day, sat at my desk trying to work. It's hard work alternating between various states of lump-in-throat and streaming tears/rubbing eyes whilst trying to get on with things.

Run it all out 

The only time today I've felt OK is during my lunch break, when I decided to go for a run. It was the best decision of the day - during that half hour I felt alright again. Even 'good', for a little bit. There were a few instances of me grimacing at people as I tried not to cry when Dobby crept into my mind, (kind of like that face when you try to stifle a yawn), but for the most part I knuckled down and got on with it.

It led me to think of the various reasons why I run these days.

It's not just to lose weight or be healthy, but sometimes just to keep sane.
It de-stresses me.
It relieves the tension inside me.
It gives me energy when I'm at my most tired.
It makes me feel OK again when my world crumbles around me.
It makes me happy.

And with a view like this, it's hard to still be upset:

I like to run alone because I like to think. It's Me Time. Time when I can unravel what's on my mind and try to make sense of things. Except today I ran to have a break from my brain. I didn't want to think about Dobby any more, I just wanted to run. So I did. And it worked. Until I sat back down at my desk again that is, but it worked for a little while at least.

It's refreshing to know that I've got something that can make it all better, if only for a few fleeting kilometres.

xx Dobby in the sky with diamonds. 4/6/13 xx
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Monday, 3 June 2013

Day Three of #Juneathon - Tribesports Challenges

Working in social media and being addicted to the Internet you can imagine my pleasure at finding a social network purely dedicated to fitness. I've been boring people on Facebook and Twitter for ages with my escapades, so it seems only right that I give people a break and channel some of my ramblings elsewhere.

I came across Tribesports last month after a fellow runner/blogger posted about the #30DaySquatChallenge and directed me to the website. I'm a sucker for challenges and need structure in my training. I tend to work better when there's someone/something telling me what to do, and love to share my experience with others, so Tribesports Challenges are perfect.

It's free to set up an account, and you can start doing the challenges straight away. I signed up to the #30DaySquatChallenge at the beginning of May but missed a few days and ballsed it up, so have started it again from today. Another challenge for Juneathon is the Sexy Leg Workout, which involves all manner of evil things such as wall squats, sumo squats and leg raises. Ouch!

I'll spare you the 'before' photos (no one needs to see that), but here are the exercises:

If you're on Tribesports already, come say hi :)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Day Two of Juneathon - a second painful flirtation with interval training

I thought I'd go for a nice easy run this evening, with a couple of faster intervals thrown in to keep me on my toes. I'm on a quest to get faster and step out of my comfort zone in time for the Brooks 10k this November. It's a flat, fast course along Brighton seafront and there's no way I'm coming in last. I've been reading up on fartlek and interval training over the past couple of weeks and everyone's telling me to do some speed work and hill running if I want to get stronger and faster properly.

Flirting with intervals

Friday lunchtime was my first flirtation with intervals, I ran down to the beach and did 5k along the promenade at varying speeds per 0.5km. It was 20 degrees and there were far too many people sitting about gorging on ice cream for my liking - I tried not to growl too loud as I weaved in and out of people dawdling along. As a result of the heat and my inexperience with faster running it hurt my lungs/legs/feet/brain but I figured this is good and it's what should be happening and things can only get better.

Today was my second flirtation with intervals - I set up the nice American lady on the MapMyRun app to tell me when I'd reached each 0.5km, and made for the cycle track in Preston Park to do a few laps. One lap of it is 579.03 metres, so I figured I'd alternate between an 80% threshold pace and a nice and slow recovery jog for a few laps.

I didn't last long

There are two problems with me trying to run faster, and while they are probably completely normal problems for any runner to have when trying to improve pace, it hurts and I don't like it:

1) I have trouble getting my breathing into a rhythm and feel like I can't get enough air into my lungs.(does this happen to anyone else?)

2) My legs/feet/brain hurts and I just want to stop/die.

I only managed 3.5km before I had to stop, mainly because my knees were playing up and I just didn't have it in me, so I walked home a little disappointed.

Keep at it 

But on reflection I'm not disappointed any more. I've come to realise that this is all new to me, and I'm never gonna be a pint-sized Mo Farah so should probably just come to terms with the fact that it's gonna take time. And effort. A whole lot of effort.

I was thinking about it on the way home - that's what I love about running and keeping fit - while there is so much information out there on the interweb and so many PTs, bootcamps, gyms and exercise apps about to help me on my way, no one is gonna get me there but me. I'm not gonna magically wake up one morning and be able to run a sub-2hour half marathon. I'm gonna have to work at it and stay with it, even when it hurts and when I come away disappointed in myself.

So, with that in mind, here are my initial (and realistic) goals for the next few months:

1) Get a sub-28 minute Parkrun.

2) Sort my breathing out when running faster intervals.

3) Stick with the intervals and do some hill running. <insert worried face here>

4) Get to and maintain a 9:30 min/mi pace for the Brooks 10k to come in just under an hour.

That last one's gonna hurt, as my comfortable pace is around 10-10:30 min/mi.

To be continued...

Day One of Juneathon - Parkrun Diaries #2

There are two events every year which make June awesome - Glastonbury, and the boy's birthday (he's a triplet, and birthdays are *ALWAYS* a big family thing). Now there's another - Juneathon.

I've signed up to join hundreds of others in a pledge to exercise every day in June and blog about it. Seeing as I do bootcamp/boxercise about 3-5 times a week already I'm filling the gaps with running as I'm working on improving my pace and technique, and I may throw in a little swimming for good measure. Glastonbury weekend's Juneathon activity will be mostly raving it up in the Shafterlife and trudging through mud across a mile-and-a-half festival site of joy. Pure joy I tell you. (More on that later).

Fresh legs for a gin-free Parkrun

So the first day of Juneathon was kickstarted with my second Parkrun - this time without the heavy head and not-so-loving embrace of a night of gin and debauchery. Even though I didn't go out on Friday night and went to bed really early (10.30pm, I thank you), I still managed to faff about enough to have to sprint to the start line from the other side of the park as they were already moving, and still didn't get round to starting my tracking on my phone so I could have a proper look at my pace etc. when I got home.

But, I learnt from most of last time's mistakes and got a good night's sleep, had a good breakfast of porridge and blueberries, and sorted my earphones and playlist out to help me through. That's three out of four so I'm giving myself a medal. Look over there, it's all shiny and everything. ----->

The run was actually really good, I started off really quickly as had to sprint to catch up, so when I settled down into my normal pace it was actually quite comfortable(ish) so I reckon I could've gone a little bit faster for longer. I got confused on the last lap whether it was the last one or not (my memory is atrocious, it doesn't matter that I've run the course before), so slowed down a wee bit to leave some energy for a faster home-straight.

Buggered that one up though as it was in fact the last lap so I should've maintained the faster pace after all. Came in at 28:56, a mere eight seconds slower than last time. I won't be able to do it next week as we're going paintballing for the boy's birthday (see, June rocks!), but will get back on it for the week after.

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